I’d heard about him through word of mouth. He uses local clay and had opened his own workshop. So I’m on a bike in the scorching afternoon sun and the dusty dirt roads are beginning to all look the same. Amongst the brighly coloured cinder block buildings and helpful abuelas taking in their laundry, I see it at last: a cluttered clay workshop where topless men waft cigarette smoke and work boisterously.
It belongs to artist Fernando Cruz, a professionally trained ceramicist turned entrepreneur. Having taken advantage of economic reforms back in 2012, Fernando began completing contracts for various hotels and tourism industry venues that want to adorn their spaces and sell his work. At 35 years old and close to fifteen years experience making pottery, he says it’s extremely hard work but with high rewards: “It’s what I always wanted to do, to make a living as an artist in my country. I wouldn’t want to leave this behind like so many do because this is my home and this is my passion.” He tells me in Spanish with an elated smile upon his face. I tell him I’m going to write about how his clay comes from just outside town. How a group of local ceramicists discovered it and how “there’s no other clay on earth like this, it’s like making with magic.” And making from your own backyard I add. With a need to produce materials locally in a country largely cut off foreign imports, artists like Fernando are showing the world another way is possible: to make with what we have sustainably, creatively and economically for all. Estas muy inspario Fernando, Gracias!